|The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water & Power held a hearing Wednesday on natural infrastructure. The purpose of the hearing was to examine how natural infrastructure can be incorporated into “western water management and policy to support economic development, protect watershed health, and build more resilient communities.”
Our written testimony can be found here. In it, we share with the committee that the ability of natural infrastructure to increase water security and drought resilience depends upon adequate and well-functioning traditional infrastructure. It should therefore not be viewed as a replacement for significant investments in human-built infrastructure, surface storage, and conveyance facilities.
One of the witnesses at the hearing expressed concerns that a new focus for the Bureau of Reclamation on natural infrastructure will threaten major pipeline and other water projects already under development.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) asked at the hearing whether natural water infrastructure should be prioritized over “built” water infrastructure threatened by natural disasters.
“If this becomes part of Reclamation’s mission, it very well likely could adversely impact the projects you’re talking about, Senator—projects that are brick and mortar,” said Mr. Larsons, the witness who testified on behalf of rural water users in parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. He testified that any requirements to include natural components as part of major water projects could drive up their cost, and natural features could take precedent over projects already under construction.
We support improvements and expansions of natural infrastructure as it pertains to forest management and watershed health, aquifer recharge, floodplain reintegration, and technology integration. We follow that with specific policy recommendations.
* Dr. Bobby Cochran, Partner, Community Resilience & Innovation for the Willamette Partnership
* Mr. Troy Larson, Executive Director of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System
* Dr. Holly Richter, Arizona Water Projects Director for The Nature Conservancy
* Mr. Charlie Stern, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy for the Congressional Research Service
The hearing was recorded and can be viewed on the committee site.